Published April 17, 2013 at 5:25 PM
By ADAM KNORR
The Grand Valley State University club dodgeball team was founded in 2005. The program became a dynasty almost immediately.
The Lakers won their first national championship in 2007 and kept on winning, completing a national championship four-peat in 2010. After a two-year drought, the Lakers team sat on top of the dodgeball world again, bringing the championship trophy back to Allendale.
GVSU traveled to the University of Kentucky last weekend to take part in the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association tournament. On Saturday, GVSU took part in a round robin series, facing off against Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Miami University and James Madison University. The Lakers dominated Northwestern State and Miami, walking off the court with 7-0 and 6-0 wins respectively.
The game against James Madison, however, didn’t go as smoothly. Despite beating the Dukes previously in the year, the Lakers got off to a slow start in the match and fell 2-1. The loss ended up being a positive for GVSU, said assistant captain Dylan Fettig.
“I honestly believe that we would not have won the championship if we would not have lost that game,” Fettig said. “We took it as a reality check and took every game after that a lot more seriously.”
After their strong showing on Saturday, the Lakers shifted their focus to the elimination round on Sunday. They rolled Bowling Green in the first round, taking the match easily with a 5-0 victory. In the quarterfinals, GVSU was given exactly what they had hoped for – a chance for revenge against James Madison.
“After our loss to James Madison, we regrouped at a team meeting,” said Laker captain Mark Trippiedi. “We decided to come out with a new strategy for the rematch and we played lights out the rest of the tourney.”
GVSU focused much more on ball control in their rematch against James Madison, a strategy the team does not usually employ. The players responded and executed the game plan well. The Lakers avenged their previous loss with a 4-1 victory to move on to the semifinals.
GVSU rode the wave of momentum from the triumph of James Madison through the next round, stomping the host Kentucky in another 4-1 victory. On the opposite site of the bracket, Michigan State University managed to upset Kent State, the number one team in the tournament, to set up a mitten state matchup between the two schools in the finals.
The sixth ranked Lakers kept the favorite Spartans off the scoreboard in the championship game, winning the tilt 3-0 to capture the program’s fifth national championship. The win was especially sweet for the returning players who came up short in the semifinals last year.
“The loss last year was very motivational,” said assistant captain Kenny Bacchus. “We had been looking forward to nationals all year and we wanted to help the seniors to leave on a good note.”
The Lakers received a lift on Sunday from senior Jeremy Stempky. Stempky was unable to make the games on Saturday, but proved to be an essential piece of the puzzle Sunday as he made game-changing plays at vital moments to help carry the Lakers to the ultimate prize.
“Besides last year, GVSU has been in every championship game since 2006,” Fettig said. “We had something to prove this year and we worked hard to bring this trophy back to Allendale.”